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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Fri May 07 - 12:00 AM | Sun May 09 - 11:58 PM

Ask PFW: The wait is over

I know that Shawn Springs spent a good portion of his career in the same division as T.O., but how often was he matched up on him? And who had the upper hand in that matchup? I was just thinking that if he can be successful against T.O. then there can't be too many other receivers that would give him a problem. Also do you think there's any chance that Owens landing in Buffalo has anything to do with Coach B.B. signing him?
Howard Wolfe

Basically, Springs and Terrell Owens have spent their entire careers going against one another. First the two were together in the NFC West when Springs played in Seattle and T.O. was with San Francisco, although that was just two seasons (2002-03) after the NFL's most recent expansion moved the Seahawks to the NFC. Springs went to Washington in 2004, the same year Owens went to Philadelphia. Two years later Owens was on the move again but stayed in the NFC East in Dallas. So for the last seven years the two have had the potential to meet twice a year. Springs is aware of his reputation as a T.O. stopper but claimed it wasn't true when we talked to him after he signed. Looking at the stats it would seem that both have had their share of success going against each other. In 2007, Owens caught eight passes for 173 yards and four touchdowns against the Redskins in a game that Springs finished with seven tackles and a pass defensed. Last season Owens was frustrated in a loss to the Redskins in which he caught seven balls for 71 yards and a touchdown but was targeted 18 times during the game. Overall, Springs has been one of the better corners in the league during his career but it's doubtful that Belichick signed him just to play against Owens twice a year against Buffalo.

I was wondering since Belichick never leaves things unanswered (the unleash of the Wildcat in New England when we played the Dolphins.) I know it's still probably fresh in his mind so he might be looking for a little revenge. Who do you think on the team will be used in the Wildcat this upcoming season? Will there be anyone worth signing for that reason after the roster cuts?Cameron Paulson

Belichick didn't wait for the offseason to look into the Wildcat as an option. He broke his own version five weeks later at Indianapolis when he tried Kevin Faulk in the role with limited success on a couple of snaps. Belichick is always looking for different ways to utilize his personnel so it wouldn't surprise me a bit to see the Wildcat used more frequently this season. Other than Faulk, there aren't too many guys on the roster with the potential skills to pull it off. Rookie Julian Edelman was a quarterback at Kent State but he was more of a runner and wasn't considered an accurate passer. It also would seem to be a lot to ask of a rookie who is making the transition to wide receiver to add such a unique set of responsibilities to his list of duties. I'm also not sure Edelman is worth a roster spot at this point, although with camp just getting underway there's a long way to go before those decisions need to be made. I don't see Belichick signing a player specifically to handle Wildcat quarterback duties, but if he finds someone he's comfortable with I wouldn't be surprised to see it in 2009.
Paul Perillo

I was wondering, I have heard so much about linebackers we do have Adalius Thomas back this year, don't we? And Belichick saw something he really liked in Shawn Crable and I know Tully Banta-Cain didn't do very well in SF but he played well in our system when he was here. Do you guys really think we are that bad off?Michael Donovan

I don't think the team is bad off at all, but that's mostly due to the return of Tom Brady and what I think will be a lethal offense that will win a lot of games. I feel the defense is making strides toward improvement but will be relying on some young players who at this point are a bit unproven. I'm sure Belichick did see something he liked in Crable, but the fact is he has yet to play a down in the National Football League. Banta-Cain wasn't very successful in our system when he was here. In fact, he was benched in the 2006 AFC Championship Game in favor of Eric Alexander (Belichick moved Mike Vrabel outside and put Alexander inside), a guy who made his first-career start in the biggest game of his life. So there are some questions at linebacker, particularly outside, and the secondary has been completely overhauled. I believe the changes have been for the better, but I also thought that about some of the past corners they've brought in that haven't panned out. Until these guys prove they can play, there are some questions. But fortunately the offense should be strong enough to overcome some struggles if and when they occur and the team will be successful.
Paul Perillo

How many receivers do you see the Pats keeping on the 53-man roster, and which receivers will they be? Big thanks go out to you guys for keeping it fresh this offseason.Rick Goodwin

Belichick has been pretty consistent with the receiver position, keeping either five or six for the most part. Last year the inclusion of jack-of-all-trades-type players like Matthew Slater and Ray Ventrone upped the number to seven, but obviously those two and Kelley Washington were really special teamers. In addition to Randy Moss and Wes Welker, Joey Galloway and Greg Lewis are probably safe for roster spots. Sam Aiken, another special teams ace, likely will get a fifth spot. From there it all depends on which positions different players are categorized. Ventrone has spent the bulk of his time working as a receiver but is listed as a defensive back. Slater splits his practice time between safety and receiver. And Julian Edelman is working out at wideout as well. So there could be as many as eight players who can fill receiver roles, but in reality my guess is five – with Moss, Welker, Galloway, Lewis and Aiken making the cut.
Paul Perillo

I was wondering what the dates were for the training camp that is open to the public and what times they are at.Andy Bewsee

Camp is set to open to the public Thursday, July 30, with two practices – 9:30 a.m.-11:15 p.m. and 3:45 p.m.-5:30 p.m. The Patriots will maintain that schedule for each of the first seven days with both practices open to the public. So July 30-Aug. 5 is set, from there you'll need to check with or call the training camp hotline at (508) 549-0001 for up-to-date information on practice times and availability.
Paul Perillo

With all the potential weapons on offense, and the Patriots ability to create mismatches all over the field, could we see the possibility of four tight ends on the field at once? Chris Baker plays the "Y", Alex Smith the "F", Tyson DeVree and Benjamin Watson on the outside/slot, and someone in the backfield? I don't think I have ever seen an NFL team run four TEs on the field at once, but I imagine it could cause some serious matchup issues for opposing defenses ... thoughts?
John Q.

I actually have a lot of thoughts on this, and none of them are good. My first thought is, if I'm looking to create matchup problems why would I want to take Randy Moss off the field? My second thought is, if I'm looking to create matchup problems, why would I want to take Wes Welker off the field? I think you can see where I'm going here. I also would contend that, rather than creating matchup problems for the opposing defense with the four tight ends you're instead making the offense easier to defend. Flooding the field with extra wideouts forces the defense to add corners and safeties who have the ability to cover. This opens up the run since the defense has smaller personnel on the field, and it also inevitably would put a receiver up against an inferior cover man at some point. Flooding it with tight ends means the defense can safely cover them all one-on-one with corners, safeties, linebackers … whichever they prefer. Watson has the speed to create mismatches, but now he can be covered by the defense's best cover man and therefore be neutralized. The other tight ends aren't overly athletic and therefore wouldn't require anything special to shut them down. Unless it was in a tight run-oriented formation, I don't see why Belichick would want to take his weapons off the field and replace them with less dynamic players.
Paul Perillo

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